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Full text of "Groundcover News Vol. 3 no. 3 March 2012"



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MARCH 2012 



VOLUME 3 



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ISSUE 3 



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Should doubled-up children be 
considered homeless? - p. 2 



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rock * p. 3 

Explaining homelessness to 
your kids - p. 3 

The vulnerabilities of homeless 
children - p. 4 

C h i I d r e n g o i n g h u n g ry is a 
trowing issue - p. 5 






Vendor Voices 



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homeless families 



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www - around covernews 



OPINION 



Doubled-up children: Should they be considered homeless? 



We were privileged to encounter an 
excellent exposition of the difficulties 
faced by children whose families are 
temporarily living with other families 
that makes a case for those children 
receiving services reserved for the 
homeless. It is such a good introduction 
to our inquiry on how homelessn'ess 
affects young children, that we are 
running it this month in lieu of my 
column. - Susan Beckett 

by Beth Mecuilough (Homeless 
Education Liaison for Adrian Public 
Schools and also the McKinney- 
Vento Homeless Education Grant 
Coordinator for Lenawee County) 

"Why should doubled-up students 
count as homeless?" It was a question 
debated in a subcommittee considering 
expanding the definition of homeless 
to include temporarily doubled-up 
homeless individuals in the Homeless 
Children and Youth Act of 201 1. The 
hew definition of homelessness would 
allow doubled-up families and students 
to receive housing assistance, like first 
month's rent and security deposit, 



CROUNDCOVER NEWS 
MISSION: 

Groundcover News 
exists to create opportunity 
and a voice for low-income 
people while taking action 
to end homelessness and 
poverty. 

^usan {^)eckett, Publisher 
contact@groundcovernews.com 



Laurie LpunsDury, L_ditor 
editor@groundcovernews.com 

C. Lee Alexander, Assistant Editor 
Andrew Nixon, Assistant Editor 



(Contributors 
Martha Brunell 
Leonore Gerstein 
LaShawn Courtwright 
Sarah Arshad 
Rissa Haynes 
David KE Dodge 
Beth Mecuilough 
William Lopez 
Robert Salo 
Shawn Story 

Letters to the f^ diton 
editor@groundcovernews.com 

§tory or fhoto Submissions: 
submissions@groundcovernews.com 

Advertising 
contact@groundcovernews.com 

www.erounacovernews.com 



hth Ave, Ann A*" 



previously provided only to families 
living-in shelters or totally unsheltered. 

Those opposing the bill argued that » 
doubled-up children were not as 
vulnerable as our most at-risk children 
in shelters. I was asked to chime in. 
Here is my chime. . .or maybe it sounds 
more like an alarm clock. 

In my county in a 2010 year-end 
report from our largest family shelter, 
there was an 82 percent increase in 
temporary shelter nights for adults. 
There was a 92 percent increase in 
temporary shelter nights for children. 
There was a 100 percent increase in 
denials. Shelters are full. They remain 
full and are turning people away. 

Where do people go when shelters are 
full? Families double up with other 
families, often putting their host family 
at risk of being evicted if the landlord 
finds out there fs a second family living 
there. 

The increase in homelessness in rural * 
areas, which we can document, is 
almost all doubled-up homeless. There 
don t tend to be shelters in corn fields, 
but there are foreclosures of farms and 
devastated small towns when even a 
small business or factory closes. 

It is a terrible game of musical chairs. 

When the definition of homeless and 
the benefits a family can receive to 
assist them out of homelessness, is 
dependent on being in a shelter, then 
it is a terrible game of musical chairs. 
Shelter beds become the chairs and 
if you sit down quickly enough, you 
get a bed. You can now be considered 
homeless and receive assistance. If you 
didn t sit down fast enough (or call the 
shelter at the moment a bed became 
available), then you don't 'get a chair or 
a bed or assistance. 

In a moment of frustration I once said 
to a Department of Human Services 
worker, "If they put up a tent in the 
shelter s back yard, does that count? 
The sh'elter is full. They are beyond full. 
They have people sleeping on couches 
with their toddlers and infants sleeping 
in play pens next to the couches." 

Then I was asked about vulnerability. 
Aren t doubled-up children taken care 
of by the family they are doubled-up 
with? After all, there was someone who 
took them in? Those children are not as 
vulnerable as the children in shelters. . . 
right? My answer was that sometimes 
doubled-up children are more at-risk. 
Why? Because there are certain cervices 
offered at shelters that are not available 
for doubled-up children. Here are a few 
examples: 

* The shelter buys the food. If your 



food assistance case has been closed or 
is being opened, DHS has 45 days to 
make a decision. That means no food 
for 45 days. We have four food pantries. 
You can go to each every 30 days. Food 
pantries give food for six meals. That 
means you can find eight days worth of 
food if you are willing to walk the miles 
between the pantries spread all over the 
county. You cannot go to those food 
pantries again for 30 days. 

* The shelter has bus tickets. Our public 
bus system takes $2 for each person 
for each ride. A Mom with two small 
children in tow would need to spend $6 
to go to the grocery store or to DHS or 
to look at an apartment. If you plan to 
go to three places with three children 
and get back, that would be $24. Each 
person is only allowed two bags on 

the bus, so frequent trips are needed. 
Homeless families don t have $24 to 
spend on public transportation. 

* The shelter provides a caseworker 
to assist with a housing plan. The 
knowledge of a caseworker at a shelter 
is invaluable. "How do you get housing 
assistance? What agency has utility 
funding? Who do I go to first, the 
landlord, DHS, Housing First (which is 
fully spent in our county) or to the non- 
profit housing assistance agency? Does 
Community Action Agency help? With 
what? I filled out Section 8 papers? Will 
I get a call soon? It has been six months. 
It should be soon, right? 

By the way, our county has fewer 
Section 8 vouchers than we had 10 
years ago. It used to be that when 
someone on Section 8 moved out of the 
county or passed away, that voucher 
was given to the next person on the 
waiting list. Presently, those vouchers 
just go away. So we have fewer vouchers 
than 10 years ago. There are over 1,000 
people waiting on our Section 8 wait 
list. The family who filled out Section 
8 papers six months ago will probably 
never get called. 

* The shelter provides a legal advocate. 
This is particularly important for 
women escaping domestic violence. 

* The shelter provides support groups 
for residents. They also provide support 
groups for victims of domestic violence 
and non-residents can come to that...if 
they have transportation. 

* The shelter provides a children's 
program. There is a full time child's 
advocate. This means emotional 
support for children. It means children's 
programming like groups and the tutor 
we provide. This is in contrast to the 
doubled-up children who are told to 

be really quiet because if Grandma's 
downstairs neighbors find out there are 



children here, you have to move and it 
will get Grandma in trouble. 

The child advocate also knows what to 
do when the child is drawing pictures 
depicting physical or sexual abuse. A 
relative the child is living with might 
just tell the child that nice children 
don t draw such things. 

* The shelter provides a large clothes 
pantry. This is huge in our largest 
shelter. Doubled-up families can go to 
the local agency that gives away clothes. 
You might need to use the public 
transportation system to get there and 
you can only take two bags and you 
need a birth certificate for each of your 
children. 

Being in the shelter means the family/ 
children can immediately get into 
counseling. Our largest shelter is run by 
an outpatient counseling agency so all 
residents are given the choice to start 
actual therapy if needed. This therapy 
can continue long after the family 
has moved out of the shelter and is 
permanently housed. 

* The shelter can give a letter of 
residency This is particularly important 
if you are applying for state assistance. 
The letter stating that the family is 
currently residing at the shelter cuts 
through so much red tape. A letter 
from your sister doesn't seem to have 
the same power - if your sister can put 
it in writing that you and your kids 

are living with her without getting in 
trouble. 

* The shelter requires children to 
be in school unless there is a safety 
risk. When a mother talks about just 
wanting her children to have a week 
off just to adjust, a shelter caseworker - 
would explain that getting the children 
back to their school is often the most 
comforting thing we can do. It gives the 
child six hours to feel normal again. For 
six hours the child is not in a shelter. 

A well-meaning relative doesn't know 
the research. She wants her sister's kids 
to be in school but maybe a week off 
would be ok.. .right? 

Shelters are mandated to make reports 
of suspected child abuse or neglect. If 
a child in a family comes to the shelter 
with bruises, it will be documented and 
reported. If children come back from 
a weekend visit with the non-custodial 
parent and there are bruises, it will be 
reported. We know homeless children 
see and experience a higher rate of 
violence than housed children. The aunt 
may or may not report the bruises or 
maybe Mom went to her sister because 
she knew her sister would let them keep 
the bruised child out of school until the 
see HOMELESS, page 9 



www. groundeovernews.com 



MMM^ 



OPINION 



So Much More Than a Rock 




by Rev. Dr. Martha 
Brunell, Pastor, 
Bethlehem United 
Church of Christ 



In New York State, 
everything north of the five boroughs 
of New York City is known as upstate. 
I did much of my growing up in a 
portion of upstate that is also known as 
Central New York. On the long east- 
west axis of the state, from Albany to 
Buffalo, Central New York includes 
eight counties that are right smack in 
the middle of the Empire State. This is a 
land riddled with a history of transition, 
of people on the move. Early in the 
nineteenth century, the Erie Canal 
provided reliable transportation for 
easterners to flow away from their roots 
and into new opportunities further west. 
This region was crisscrossed with routes 
on the Underground Railroad, too. In 
fact, the great Underground Railroad 
"conductor" Harriet Tubman lived the 



last fifty years of her life, after the Civil 
War, in Auburn, NY where I lived from 
age two to age eighteen. The area was 
covered with farms and orchards during 
my childhood, some of them relying on 
a migrant labor force. Over and over, 
the land has been familiar to different 
people between homes. 

One summer when I was in high school, 
I was a member of a group of Senior 
Girl Scouts that organized and ran a 
day camp for migrant children while 
the adults in their families were out in 
one field or another picking the current 
crop. The day started with a long bumpy 
ride in an old yellow school bus. We 
made our way from one migrant camp 
to the next picking up waiting children. 
It was a bit chaotic. We never knew 
ahead of time which children would 
be coming on a particular day. All of 
us running the program had years of 
camping experience. There was no 
end to our energetic ideas about what 



each day would hold. I don't remember 
much of what we planned. What I do 
remember is what the kids loved to do 
most. Every day they picked up rocks, 
ordinary rocks, stuffed them in their 
pockets, and carried them back to 
their temporary homes in the shabby 
migrant camps. Once we figured out 
their attraction to the rocks, we came 
up with new rock possibilities. If I 
recall, they were largely uninterested in 
rock crafts. They wanted to wrap their 
hands around those rocks and tote them 
home. Forty-five years have passed since 
that summer. Over that long time, a 
picture of one child or another, rock in 
hand, remains with me. 

I have come to see their rocks as 
something solid, something that won t 
disappear or radically change the next 
day. Those remembered rocks cause 
me to wonder what kind of stability 
kids crave when they have inadequate 
housing or no housing at all. More 



recently I have known other kids in 
crisis housing situations at domestic 
violence shelters, and throughout the 
poor urban neighborhood in Saint 
Louis where I served as a pastor for 
seventeen years. I was aware that 
summer in the late 1960s and I am 
aware now that all those children need 
much more than a palm-sized rock to 
ensure their safety and security. Their 
challenge, which is our challenge, 
seems daunting on a good day. The 
questions are simple; their answers are 
more complicated. Where do we begin, 
what steps do we take, to offer them 
substance other than a rock? And how 
do we include them in the conversation 
and discussion about what that 
substance might be? Children in the 
migrant camps, children in the shelters, 
children throughout one stressed urban 
neighborhood, still are waiting for you 
and me to live more creatively, more 
willingly, more persistently into such 
housing questions. Are we ready? 



Explaining homelessness to your kids — and yourself 



by William Lopez 
Groundcover Contributor 

My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter 
seems to get smarter by the day. Every 
morning, she greets me with a smile 
and about a half-dozen new words 
of increasing complexity. Perhaps it's 
because there are so many adults in her 
life that she is able to hold long con- 
versations about things I once thought 
far too complicated for a two-year-old. 
While this new stage is certainly fun, 
it brings with it its own set of unique 
challenges. Whereas the primary chal- 
lenge with a six- month-old is figuring 
out if the incessant crying means Tm 
hungry," Tm thirsty," "my diaper's 
dirty," or all three, the challenge with a 
toddler is figuring out how to explain 
the intricate and complex workings 
of the world both in a manner that 
she will understand and in a way that 
does these complex issues justice. This 
process is also enlightening, however, 
as creating the "elevator speech" of ones 
own beliefs can make one reassess those 
beliefs, their strengths and weaknesses, 
and what's really at the heart of the is- 
sue. 

About a month ago, my brother and I 
went to get some coffee, and I took my 
daughter with us. On the way home, we 
ended up at the playground in the very 
early morning. On the park bench was 
a man curled up in the fetal position, a 
bag of cans lying next to him. When she 
asked me, 




William Lopez and his young daughter 

"Daddy, why is he sleeping there?" I 
hardly knew where to begin. 

In our capitalist, individualistic society, 
we often frame issues of homelessness, 
illness, unemployment, use of govern- 
ment assistance, and the like as issues of 
personal failure that reflect weaknesses 
in moral character. The "Occupy Wall 
Street" movement illustrated this mind- 
set brilliantly, with a large group of 
protesters pushing for a redistribution 



abyss. 



of wealth, and a competing 
group arguing that those 
who work hard will earn 
wealth for themselves. Sure, 
hard work, positive choices, 
and personal agency can all 
turn a life around for the 
better. Rare is the recovered 
drug addict that does not 
cite incredible force of will . 
as a driving factor that al- 
lows him or her to pursue 
a better life. But to say that 
homelessness results solely 
from choice and moral 
weakness is to gloss over a 
simple, fundamental truth: 
it doesn't. Homelessness is 
the result of a confluence of 
social and economic factors, 
often completely unpredict- 
able and rarely controllable, 
that can push those with an 
over-extended social and 
financial safety net into the 



Safety nets and housing insecure 
families in the U.S. are examined in 
the National Center on Family Home- 
lessness report, America's Youngest 
Outcasts 2010. It documents the risk 
factors for homeless children in every 
state and details the policy and plan- 
ning activities of the state to address the 
issue. The study shows a spike in child 
homelessness following Hurricanes 
Katrina and Rita in 2005. It also reports 



that, between 2007 and 2010, the crash 
of the stock market and the foreclosure 
crises resulted in a 38 percent increase 
in child homelessness. The effects of 
Katrina and Rita, along with the earth- 
quake in Haiti and tsunami in Japan, 
illustrate the unpredictability of certain 
causes of homelessness. But the finan- 
cial crisis (along with a deeper look 
at who becomes homeless following a 
natural disaster) shows that those that 
lose their homes are not a random se- 
lection of the population. No: it's those 
whose resources are already stretched 
thin, those without health insurance, 
those unable to find employment, who 
find themselves without a roof over 
their heads. 

As my daughter sat there, waiting for 
me to answer the loaded question of 
why exactiy this man was sleeping 
outside, I began to think through how 
the issue needed to be framed, not only 
when talking to her, but when talking 
to anyone. Because I could not fully 
relay the complicated and intricate 
causes of homelessness, I was tempted 
to reduce it to the individual, and say 
something like, "Well, he has nowhere 
else to sleep." While this is true, it is 
indeed selling the story short. Further, 
this tendency to reduce social complex- 
ity into individual narrative for the 
sake of simplicity is partially to blame 
for never thinking beyond the "pick 
yourself up by the bootstraps" mental- 
see EXPLAINING, page 9 



www .groundcovernews.com 



FEATURE 



The Vulnerabilities of Homeless Children 



by Leonore Gerstein 
Groundcover Contributor 

Some people say that a society is judged 
by the way it treats its most fragile 
members. It sounds like a noble stan- 
dard, doesn t it? But how does that fit 
in with another belief we hold in the 
United States, namely that each indi- 
vidual is responsible primarily for him 
or herself? Does that sound more like 
reality to you? And even if you apply 
that principle to adults, what prin- 
ciple guides our treatment of children, 
homeless children in particular? 

Among the many individuals who ex- 
perience homelessness, none are more 
vulnerable than the infants, children 
and adolescents whose well-being de- 
pends entirely on their parents, and, by 
extension, on the whole village we call 
society. Homeless children are marked 
by the catastrophic events their care- 
givers experience in ways that can 
have long lasting effects. Every stage of 
growth can be disrupted by the trauma 
of homelessness. 

The loss of home can impair a child's 
ability to develop the strengths associ- 
ated with each developmental stage. 
Infants and toddlers are working on 
developing trust, self-esteem and au- 
tonomy. School age kids build on these 
strengths and become intellectually and 
socially competent. They learn to cope 
with feelings and to self-regulate. The 
loss of a physical home often means 
the loss of the intangible nest everyone 
needs. Our society is struggling to find 
ways to recreate that nest through mul- 
tiple interventions for parents and kids, 
even as we try to eradicate homeless- 
ness in the first place. 

Local efforts for homeless children and 
their families are extensive. More than 
twenty agencies coordinate interven- 
tions through the Housing Alliance of 
Washtenaw County. Clients are assisted 
with temporary housing, support and 
outreach designed to meet each family s 
specific needs, and being there in every 
sense for children and youth. These 
non-profit organizations place clients in 
either a shelter or temporary dwelling 
(eligibility up to two years), as long as 
space and funds are available. Parents 
and children are screened for signs of 
trauma and interventions are coordi- 
nated with the appropriate agencies. 

In conjunction with Head Start, SOS 
runs Time for Tots, a preschool serv- 
ing children from birth to age five, thus 
extending the Head Start model to 
meet the needs of unhoused children 
and their parents. SOS director Faye 
Askew-King pinpoints language delay 
as the chief area of concern for the chil- 



dren in this program. TOTS director Ja- 
nesse Whitlock and Parent Coordinator 
Caroline Kennedy confirm this but add 
that within a few weeks in the program, 
the staff sees improvement in toddlers' 
self-expression (often with sign lan- 
guage at first). Teachers, interns and 
volunteers create individual educational 
plans tailored to each child's needs in 
all areas of development. The program 
is animated by a deep concern for a 
child's sense of security and the capacity 
to bond with caring adults, to create a 



''Children experiencing homelessness 

look and, for the most part, act just 

like all other children. They have 

happy and sad days, challenge limits, 

and tell amazing stories. They love 

treats, play, and attention, and need 

structure and routine... we work hard 

to help kids be kids - without the 

stress of wondering where they will 

sleep and if they will eat that night/' 

- Alpha House clinical director Peggy Galimberti 



tine. At Alpha House, we work hard to 
help kids be kids - without the stress of 
wondering where they will sleep and if 
they will eat that night." 

Galimberti related one Alpha House 
success story: 

"A mom came to Alpha House with 
two daughters, ages seven and two. The 
seven-year-old ("Maria") was extremely 
outgoing and wise beyond her years. 
She had the most beautiful brown eyes, 
and wore her hair in braids with bright- 
ly colored beads. Mom 
shared that Maria had 
not been in school for 
some time, as they had 
been moving around so 
much and had no way 
to get her there. Most 
recently they stayed 
with a former boy- 
friend but had to leave 
due to violence in the 
home. 



foundation for strong relationships in 
the future. For kids ages six and above, 
an impressive variety of after-school 
programs provide safety and enrich- 
ment, while freeing parents to pursue 
their own goals. 

Longtime Alpha House clinical direc- 
tor Peggy Galimberti said, "Children 
experiencing homelessness look and, 
for the most part, act just like all other 
children. They have happy and sad 
days, challenge limits, and tell amazing 
stories. They love treats, play, and at- 
tention, and need structure and rou- 



"While the two-year- 
old was very quiet and 
very attached to Mom, 
Maria quickly engaged 
with staff here. She was 
extremely open and 
happy to share details 
about her day - both 

struggles and successes. Maria asked 

every day if it was "Kids Group Day" (a 

therapeutic group focusing on feelings 

and friendship skills). On non-group 

days, she asked if 

she could play in the 

Children's Services 

Coordinator s office. 

She was a prolific 

artist, drawing bright, 

cheerful pictures for 

staff and other guests. 

It became clear that 

Maria felt left out 



with her younger sister getting most 
of Mom's non-work time. Staff here 
worked with Mom on carving out 
special time for Maria every day - even 
a few minutes at a time - without her 
sister present. The Children's Services 
Coordinator helped Mom learn to 
listen and attend to Maria, even when 
Mom felt overwhelmed with work and 
multiple life responsibilities. Mom and 
Maria began to really enjoy their time 
together, and it helped the two-year-old 
start to play independently, too. Staff 
helped Mom enroll Maria in school and 
arranged for transportation and school 
supplies through the Education Project 
for Homeless Youth." 

The public school system has special 
services for homeless kids as well, and 
combined efforts insure that a homeless 
child can continue to attend his or her 
home school. After school and sum- 
mer programs for school-age kids are 
equally rich and diverse. A stand-out 
program that involves the University of 
Michigan community, called "Telling 
It," addresses the literacy and writing 
skills of kids who are at risk for drop- 
ping out of school. Despite early educa- 
tional efforts, homeless kids experience 
academic failure disproportionately. 
The battle-weary say that, yes, kids fail 
in school, but schools also fail kids. 

The statistics on homelessness among 
the young in America are as discour- 
aging today as they have ever been. 

see HOMELESS, page 11 



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www. groundcovernews . com 



HEALTH 



Children going hungry is a growing issue in US 



by Sarah H. Arshad 
Groundcover Contributor 

It comes as no surprise that we live in a 
country currently suffering an obesity 
epidemic, with obesity statistics grow- 
ing as fast as Americans' waistlines. 
Millions of people spend billions of 
dollars every year on weight loss books, 
foods, classes, and diet products, ac- 
cording to popular polls. But what if 
you were one of the nearly 50 million 
Americans who- lived in a food-insecure 
household? If you were a person not 
so much concerned about a few extra 
pounds and a New Year s resoluticm to 
hit the gym, but, in fact, stayed up at 
night anxious about finding enough to 
eat? 

It's devastating to think that in one of 
the richest, most powerful countries in 
the world, so many go so hungry. It s 
eveij sadder that about 15 million of 
those who go hungry are children and 
adolescents — that's one in five kids. 
These are often children wrought in or 
around ppverty, with parents who won t 
or cant provide for them. And in the 
challenge to make sure obese children 
learn how to live healthier lifestyles by 
eating more nutritiously and getting 
exercise, we need to make sure we don t 
forget about those who desperately 
need nutrition to survive. 

I was inspired after reading The Hun- 
ger Games to talk to a friend of mine, 
I'll call her Anna, who shared her own 
struggles about growing up in poverty. 
Born to American parents of European 
descent, she may not fit the stereotype 
of what a "hungry American child" 
looks like. But she recalls a childhood 
adulterated by drive-by shootings, 
burning buildings, and living down the 
street from a cohort of meth labs. At 
the tender age of three, she discovered 
a gun in her front yard. A few years 
later, she saw a man wearing a trench 
coat, drenched in blood, get arrested 



on her street. And to her, all of this was 
normal. 

It was only as she advanced in school 
that she realized "how awful my cloth- 
ing and hair were compared to what 
most of the other kids had. . .nothing 
ever matched, and we always went to 
the thrift store." She also recalls years 
living on welfare, eating whatever her 
mother managed to cook. Luckily for 
Anna, her mother was educated and 
cognizant of good nutrition — though 
they did not have much money, Annas 
mother spent her food stamps on 
beans, lentils, vegetables, and fruits. 
This was in contrast, Anna told me, to 
the many others who live in poverty 
who try to subsist on plain white bread 
and Ramen noodles, foods severely 
lacking nutritive cpntent. In addition, 
Annas family received food boxes and 
commodities from local organizations, 
and friends would donate food when 
they had extra, even if it wasn't always 
palatable. Anna specifically recalls "see- 
ing my mom take this long, nasty, limp 
carrot out of the box and asking her, 
we're eating that?' She shrugged and 
responded, It's food?' And there were 
times Anna's mother did not eat so that 
her children had just a little bit more to 
fill their empty bellies. 

I'm sure it's no shock that Anna grew 
up grateful for what she did have, and 
that she learned not to take things for 
granted. And even now, after graduat- 
ing from an Ivy League college and 
working a full time job, she says, "I 
still buy 80 percent of what I own from 
thrift stores and I am proud of that fact 
- 1 save money and am helping recycle." 
While many classmates of hers now 
work in posh jobs in the financial sector 
and spend hundreds of dollars every 
week on food, she instead recalls delica- 
cies born of necessity from her child- 
hood, like dandelion soup and kidney 
bean muffins. However, she also admits 



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that the anxiety of not having enough to 
eatibr so long makes her overeat now 
that she does have enough on her plate, 
if she is not careful. Even now, she must 
pay attention to her food, concentrat- 
ing on eating what is sufficient instead 
of eating more due to the fear of not 
knowing when her next meal will be, 
as she did throughout her childhood. 

Medical studies have, in fact, shown 
that children who suffer from hun- 
ger have poorer health outcomes. A 
case-control study conducted by Dr. 
Linda Weinreb from the University of 
Massachusetts Medical School entitled, 
Hunger: Its Impact on Children's Health 
and Mental Healthy found that hungry 
children were more likely to be home- 
less, to have low birth weight, have 
more stressful life events, have higher 
chronic illness counts, and have in- 
creased amounts of internalizing behav- 
ior problems. The organization Share 
our Strength says that these children 
are sick more often, recover less often, 
are more likely to get hospitalized. They 
are also especially susceptible to obesity 
later in life. Additionally, these children 
were more likely to have parents who 



suffered from depression, anxiety, or 
substance abuse, which again makes 
them vulnerable to unstable childhoods 
and poorer health outcomes. All in all, 
these children are hindered academical 
ly, and more likely to suffer emotional 
' difficulties. 

As the daughter of middle class im- 
migrants, I was flummoxed by Anna's 
story, and the realities of so many 
people around me. I began looking into 
ways to donate time and money to- 
wards worthy causes fighting hunger in 
America, and came across the following 
organizations: 

Food Gatherers, (www.foodgatherers. 
org), Feeding America (www.feed- 
ingamerica.org), Share our Strength 
(www.nokidhungry.org), Put Food on 
Your Table (putfoodonyourtable.com), 
and Palouse Food Bank (palousefood- 
bank.org). I urge you to consider look- 
ing into any of these organizations, or 
finding one that serves your local com- 
munity, and trying to make a difference 
There are hungry American kids out 
there that need your help. 




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VENDOR VOICES 




Generosity and gratitude 

by Robert Salo 
Groundcover Vendor 

I often wonder why it is that people are so generous this time 
of year. With the economic downturn, these are certainly 
difficult times. Now I can begin to understand exactiy the 
struggles our ancestors must have gone through. 

We as vendors have to struggle with the weather. I recall its 
said, "Wind, rain, snow or shine, the mail must get through " 

The days are shorter. It's cold on the corner or street. Some of 
us seem depressed, being homeless and with limited funds, being without trans- 
portation, trying to get from point A to point B, trying to be part of a community 
For others it is taking care of \ loved one, spending all our time on this person. 

We all know ftiat it is better to give than to receive. There are a lot more struggles. 
I'm just naming a few I have witnessed. 

On the other hand, we see so many acts of kindness. They don't pass by unnoticed. 
The day after Thanksgiving I was on my corner and Barbara, a customer, asked me 
if I was hungry. I answered her yes, and said I'm not alone, there are others. She 
went out of her way to get us all dinner at our corner during work. 

When a prospective buyer says they do not have money, I often give them a paper. 
Generosity goes a long way That's why I try to go out of my way, no matter what 
time of year. It always warms my heart to see a smile. 

I remember as a child, with my classmates at school, at lunch-break, we would get 
together and if someone wanted something my mom had packed for me, I was 
always generous. I found out others would do the same and we began to share. 

Like in an old Elvis movie, they're in a car on a road trip and one of the twins has 
a candy bar he breaks in two. You could just see the joy on b6th faces, giving and 
receiving, we all enjoy both. 

I was in front of St. Joe's church in Ypsilanti and a customer handed me $20 and 
said, "keep the paper." Vendor Shelley stated that she was on her corner and a per- 
son approached her and handed her $20 and did not even take a copy of Ground- 
cover. Vendor Rissa said the same thing and a customer brought her aTsaridwich. 
Vendor Mary stated that a customer would buy her a cup of coffee every morning 
at her corner. 

Helping someone in need not only makes you feel good inside, it can be the start 
of a friendship. We are grateful to all our readers and those whose acts of generos- 
ity fill the world with kindness. 



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Thank you! 

The Groundcover benefit was a huge success. Every seat was 
taken for dinner and an enthusiastic crowd clapped and danced to 
the music. While we dont yet have a final total, pass-the-bucket 
donations alone amounted to more than $1,200, allowing us to fund 
a second round of matched savings accounts for our vendors. Your 
generosity will help someone save the money needed to move into 
an apartment or increase their earning potential. 




Your Mouth Can Be Your 
Worst Enemy 

by Shawn 

Groundcover Vendor 

(with a nod to Lao Tse, in quotes) 



Your words and what you say have power to create conditions in your life. 

For Instance, 

If you say you can't stand your body, you can become sick. 

If you say you can't find love, you will attract no one. 

If you say you can't lose weight, you will stay fat. 

If you say you say you can't live life, you will pass away. 

Don't be afraid to say what's on your mind. 

"Watch your thoughts, they become words. 

Watch your words, they become action. 

Watch your actions, they become habits. 

Watch your habits, they become character " 
If you settle for less, you'll get less than you settle for. 

Watch your circumstances and situation change when you change what 
you say and remember this: what you say to others will not only hurt them, 

it will backfire on you. 






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MAKING A DIFFERENCE 



Benefit dinner serves up chili and homeless awareness 



by Lee Alexander 
Groundcover Assistant Editor 

The second Sunday in February, 
tempting aromas wafting into the 
sanctuary of St. Mary Student Parish 
during Mass enticed parishioners 
to gather in the church's Newman 
Center to raise awareness and funds 
for community groups combating 
homelessness. Members of the church's 
Lesbian and Gay Outreach Ministry 
(LGOM) prepared dinner for 130 
and raised more than $5,600 to help 
Washtenaw County's most vulnerable. 
Mark Thiesmeyer was co-organizer. 

"We're glad that we decided early on 
that we weren't going to charge any 
admission for dinner," Thiesmeyer said, 
"but wed just leave it to people to reach 
into their hearts and find out what 
they could give to this cause." Their 
approach was wildly successful. 

LGOM members spent a great deal 
of time working to understand need 
within our community, and visited all 
the major service providers, asking lots 
and lots of questions. They organized 
their findings, created interesting 
posters filled with information that 
lined the dining room's walls. Members 
said what they discovered about local 
poverty, here in an area of relative 
affluence, surprised them. 

"We found that need has shifted a lot 
in the last five years from individuals 
who are homeless to families who 
are homeless," Thiesmeyer said, "and 
because a family of a mother and her 
two or three children become homeless, 
there's three kids there/This makes 
children the fastest growing population 
of homeless. We knew that would 
resonate within the parish." 

St. Mary has a strong history of public 
outreach. The church organizes service 
opportunities for members. They 
collect and donate funds for many local 




Chili chefs at St. Mary, from left: Deacon Romolo Leone, Sarah Manning, Sandi Estep, 
Mary Howrey, Bob Strauss, Mark Thiesmeyer, Rommel Sagana, Aaron Van Dyke, 
Rodrigo Cejas Goyanes 



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programs. Father Dan Reim is a priest 
at St. Mary. He said he believes that 
once parishioners understand an issue 
they're always eager to help. 

"I was really impressed with the 
education pieces they did," Father 
Reim said. "They did a great job. As 
people were coming in and waiting in 
line they had a chance to look at a lot 
of really good information. And that 
was really the point of it all, to give 
members of our parish an opportunity 
to really learn more about hunger and 
homelessness in our area." 

Sarah Manning was the ^GOM 
member staffing the information 
table, piled overflowing with reams of 
educational material from major service 
providers spread across the region. 
She steered diners toward prospective 
programs and causes based on guests 
questions and interests. 

"I gave folks the five second outline of 
what these organizations do." Manning 
said. "I did pass out what I thought 
was most important, besides all the 
volunteer opportunities. 



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"It was good to see .that people didn't 
just sit down with their food, eat it and 
leave. They looked at our posters, they 
looked at all the things on the table, and 
there was a lot to look at." 

The chief reason St. Mary took on the 
challenge of addressing homelessness 
now is, v^hile our economy is 
comparatively tepid, the resources 



needed to deal with problems 
are spread ever thinner. 
Agencies are simply making 
due with less while working 
to service more individuals. 
Budgets continue to be cut 
deeply. 

"I'm no expert to say whether or 
not social safety nets should be 
entirely government, or if they 
should be partially government 
and partially charitable 
organizations," Thiesmeyer 
said, "but I can say that right 
now I don't think the social 
safety net that exists within our 
government is entirely adequate 
to support the massive numbers of 
homeless people who've recently 
become homeless in Washtenaw 
County. 



"It's shocking to hear a major politician 
say, Tm not concerned about the 
very poor.' I think we should all be 
concerned about the very poor." 

See St. Mary Black Bean Chili 
Recipe on page 10 






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Solutions on page 11 

GROUNDCOVER VENDOR CODE 



While Groundcover News is a nonprofit 
organization and newspaper vendors 
are considered contracted self-employers, 
we still have expectations of how vendors 
should conduct themselves while selling 
and representing the paper. 

The following list is our Vendor Code of 
Conduct, which every vendor reads 
and signs before receiving a badge and 
papers. We request that if you discover 
a vendor violating any tenets of the Code, 
please contact us and provide as many 
details as possible. Our paper and our 
vendors should be posively impacting our 
County 

All vendors must agree to the following code 
of conduct: 

• Groundcover News will be distributed 
for a voluntary donation of $1.1 agree 
not to ask for more than a dollar or 
solicit donations by any other means. 

• I will only sell current issues of 
Groundcover News. 

• I agree not to sell additional goods or 
products when selling the paper or 
to panhandle, including panhandling 
with only one paper. 

• I will wear and display my badge 
when selling papers. 

• I will only purchase the paper from 
Groundcover News Staff and will 



not sell to or buy papers from other 
Groundcover News vendors, especial- 
ly vendors who have been suspended 
or terminated. 

• I agree to treat all customers, staff, 
other vendors respectfully I will 
not"hard sell," threaten, harass or 
pressure customers, staff, or other 
vendors verbally or physically. 

• I will not sell Groundcover News un- 
der the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

• I understand that I am not a legal 
employee of Groundcover News but a 
contracted worker responsible for my 
own well-being and income. 

• I understand that my badge is prop- 
erty of Groundcover News and will 
not deface it. I will present my badge 
when purchasing the papers. 

• I agree to stay off private property 
when selling Groundcover News. 

« , I understand to refrain from selling 
on public buses, federal property or 
stores unless there is permission from 
the owner. 

• I agree to stay at least one block away 
from another vendor. I will also abide 
by the Vendor corner policy. 

If you see any Groundcover News ven- 
dors not abiding by the code of conduct, 
please report the activity to: 
contact@groundcovernews.com 

734-972-0926 



ACROSS 

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9. Bird 










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15 








16 










14. Elephant park in South Africa 

15. Annie Oakley, Fidel Castro, many others . 










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17 . 








18 








19 










16. Commerce 

17. Destitute 










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20 








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22 






24 








18. Sign over a "greasy spoon" 

19. Ancient Roman political subdivision 
























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20. Wandering 

22. Jack, of television, stage, and screen 
























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24. Pro sports team 

25. Unanimous agreement"* 


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27. Rodent 

29. Famous stadium 




























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43 






44 










30. Collection of similar items? 
34. Television network (abbr.) 






























45 










46 








47 






37. j. Speedwagon 

39, Means of recording 






















48 










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51 






40. Puts on the stove 
43, ands or buts 


























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54 






55 














44. Confuse 

45. Courtyards • 


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65 












46. Money machine (abbr.) 
"47. Salt (French) 




























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671 


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70 








48. Appreciative? 
50. Demons 
























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55. Lack of self-control? 






















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59. Bean curd 

62. Doctor's group {abbr,} 






















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65. Oklahoman 


8, ExxonMobil subsidiary 41. Unable to differentiate? 


66. Take advantage 


9. Common abbreviation 42. Protected 


68, Tools 


10, Happy? Content? 49. Actress Thurman 


70. One of the Marianas 


11. Difficult to find 51, Summoning? 


71. Foot bones 


12. Make corrections 52. Type of insurance (abbr.) 


72. Request 


13. Drinks , 53. Catch phrase 


73. Recovery Act Of 2009 (abbr.) . 


21. Federal agency (abbr,) ■; 56. Acclimate 


74. HHo greeting 


23. Metal-bearing rock 57. Apprbaches 


75. Liquidate 


26. Of the nostrils 58. Bombeck's namesakes 


76, Federal agent Eliot 


28. Michigan city 59. Vehicle manufacturer 


DOWN 


30. Celestial 60. Ellipse 


1. 1940s Yankee outfielder 


31. Does arithmetic 61. Card game 


2. Love 


32. Khartoum's river 63. Charts 


3. Decorate 


33. Old Testament woman 64, Wheel connecter 


4. Swamp 


34. African nation 67. Japanese pop singer 


5. Decoration for January to November? 


35. Greek letter 69. Fish 


6. Approval 


36. AstSn garment i- , , , er _. ■ 


7. Cookware 


38. Newt Puzzle by Jeff Richmond 




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roasted from Rocky Peanut of Detroit. Our customers love our 
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www. groundcovernews . com 



COMMUNITY 



Failing in big love: Valentine's Day for a broken-hearted social activist 



by Sir Writeous Upgrayedd 

This is my debut Groundcover article. 
Due to the need to protect the identities 
of those involved, I must keep my name 
a secret. I am at liberty to reveal I'm 
a black man from Detroit in my mid- 
thirties, and a father, house-husband 
and emissary of Christ s Divine King- 
dom of Love. Also, Fm a new part time 
resident at Camp Take Notice tent city 
and Fm a love-sick/heartbroken social 
activist whos pursuing the most radical 
social justice, reformation dream of the 
early 21st century In this article, I will 
share my recent struggles in an unusual 
love affair and a shift in my conscious- 
ness regarding a taboo area of social 
justice. 

We live in a world that makes it very 
hard to love on the scale needed for 
true healing and equity to manifest. 
Humanity s capacity to love is being 
systemically eroded under the guise of 
peace, mobility, and abundance. We 
have enough love to cope, but we've 
been divided and rendered unable 
to generate enough love to decisively 
overcome critical problems such as: 



debt and fossil fuel dependency, broken 
families, high incarceration rates, 
homelessness, stress, and diseases like 
cancer and diabetes. As long time social 
activist Grace Lee Boggs puts it, "Every- 
one who lives in our capitalistic society 
has been damaged by it." 

Our challenge is not only generating 
enough love to heal and evolve, but to 
do so in enough time to protect our- 
selves from the deferred costs from over 
200 years of industrialism — absorbed 
by the planet and humanity — bearing 
down on us. 

Motivated by this sense of urgency 
and zeal, I became convinced that 
polygyny — a form of marriage in which 
a man has two or more wives — should 
be seriously pursued and promoted as a 
viable family arrangement option, espe- 
cially among African Americans. 

After stumbling upon this taboo subject 
of polygyny, I approached my wife with 
the idea and the possibility of creat- 
ing a polygynous (or plural) family 
ourselves, in which she would share 
me with sister- wives. My wife and I are 
naturally passionate about the African 



American community and social activ- 
ism in general. And being a busy couple 
with children, we struggle, like most, 
with the dizzying demands of modern 
life. So, in my mind, plural marriage is 
a very attractive option for amplifying 
the effectiveness of a household. But, 
my wife told me that she was not ready 
to have that discussion. 

Being the proactive and radical social 
activist that I am, I proceeded (despite 
my fears) to learn more about the sub- 
ject, and to assess and encourage public 
interest in it. I learned that people were 
indeed interested in plural marriage. In 
fact, people in many circles are discuss- 
ing the topic. The popularity of HBO s 
Big Love and TLC s Sister- Wives have 
sparked much interest in plural fami- 
lies. 

Ultimately, I became interested in a 
particular woman who I thought would 
be a great fit to begin upgrading our 
family. I tried to have a dialog with my 
wife about my interest, but my wife's 
fears stalled my attempt. All the while, 
my interests grew into a mutual attrac- 
tion. So my next step was to introduce 



them on Facebook, but that didn't 
work. Then (at a not so good a time) I 
told my wife about my growing feelings 
for the other woman and my desire for 
us all to meet, be friends, and discuss 
the possibility of being a plural family. 

My wife was infuriated at my audacity 
and naivety. The next thing I knew, I 
was asked to leave and began residing 
at the Camp Take Notice tent city. 

It's been a bittersweet experience. I'm 
remorseful about hurting my wife. 
Thankfully, she forgave me and we've 
been mending. Our relationship has 
reached a new level of love and un- 
derstanding. I've since shut down my 
Facebook page. And the prospective 
sister- wife, has nobly distanced herself. 

In light of the big picture, I'm con- 
vinced I made some mistakes but I 
did the right thing. On one hand, I'm 
embarrassed that I proceeded as such 
while my wife wasn't onboard with the 
idea of plural families; on the other, I 
feel that I did my duty, in the face of 
personal risk, to explore the possibility 
of improving the hopes and quality of 
lives for others. 



Explaining homelessness to children is a challenge 



continued from page 3 

ity. Perhaps we need to think about 
homelessness, not "the homeless." This 
approach zooms the camera out and 
looks at the issue, rather than incor- 
rectly creating this "us versus them" 
mentality. Additionally, just as we want 
to avoid ascribing homelessness merely 
to personal responsibility, addressing 
homelessness on the individual level 
can be short-sighted and lack the capac- 
ity for long-term change. While giving 
food or money to someone that asks 
and is in need is certainly useful, such 
small actions do not treat the funda- 
mental issues of poverty that underlie 
homelessness. Thus, if we want to help 
"the homeless" - the people - we must 
address "homelessness" - the issue - 
with all its underlying causes, through 
collective activism and social change. 
We must support programs such as 

Homeless children 

continued from page 2 

bruises heal. Who is more vulnerable? I 
don't know. Who has the drug addicted 
Mom? She will go to her girlfriend's 
house rather than a shelter when she 
becomes homeless. The family in the 
shelter may have no extended family 
to go to at all and they are looking at 
the shelter or the street. Doubled-up 
homeless students are indeed homeless. 
They should be counted and served by 
schools and housing assistance. 



Groundcover News, Alternatives for 
Girls, and Food Gatherers, that work 
to address causes of homelessness such 
as lack of employment opportunities or 
available health care. 

So, as my daughter sat that morning in 
the park, staring at me, I have to admit: 
I was flustered. I probably gave her an 
answer that was too much for her to 
wrap her little two-and-a-half-year-old 
head around. But the fact that the ex- 
planation for homelessness is complex 
does not mean we should over-simplify 
it. Solutions arise from explanation. If 
homelessness is indeed the fault of those 
who are homeless, then it is up to them 
to solve the problem. But if we believe 
homelessness is a multifaceted, complex 
social issue, perhaps we will address it 
in multifaceted, complex, creative, and 
empowering ways. 



Counting homeless individuals who 
are only in shelters, cars or abandoned 
buildings is like only counting the 
birds in nests. The birds in the air are 
more difficult to count. They move a 
lot. But we don't debate that they are 
birds. Homeless doubled-up children 
are homeless. Doubled-up or in shelter 
does not determine their vulnerability. 

The bill passed out of subcommittee 
and is now under consideration by the 
full subcommittee. 



HOMELESS 

...where LESS is 
not more for many 

Attend a 
HOMELESS HIGHLIGHT EVENT 

Representatives from four local organizations working with 
homelessness will describe what their group does, and indicate... 

Opportunities for individuals who wish to volunteer 

Organizations Represented: 



• Delonis Center • VA Homeless Program 

• Avalon Housing • Camp Take Notice 






When: Thursday, April 1 2, 201 2 
7:00-8:00pm 

Where: Parish Activities Center (PAC) 

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church 
2250 East Stadium Blvd. 
Ann Arbor, Ml 

Sponsored by Peace & Justice, St. Francis of Assisi 



10 



FOOD 



Food with friends can be fun AND healthy 



by Rissa Haynes 
Groundcover Vendor 

Remember the days of your youth? 
When friends got together, it was 
always like a party. The games were 
great! The conversation was crazy! The 
food was fantastic! Well, THAT was if 
you didn't know it was good FOR you. 
Of course, as the incurable optimist, 
I believe even teens can love healthy 
food, too. 

As I see it, food ought to ALWAYS taste 
good, whether dining in or out, alone 
or with others, healthy or not. Keeping 
a few things in mind, a tasty recipe can 
always be made healthily. First thing to 
remember is avoid the KEVORKIAN 
FOUR. What is that? Those are 



four ingredients that are deadly for 
healthy living: 1) hydrogenated fats, 2) 
processed sugars, 3) sodium nitrates, 
and 4) white flour. Second thing to 
remember is to season well. Keep in 
mind that some good substitutions for 
the above Kevorkian Four can make 
a great health improvement without 
affecting the goodness of the taste of 
the food. For example, sea salt is a 
great substitute for sodium nitrates. 
Real butter (preferably organic from 
antibiotic/hormone-free cows) instead 
of margarines that have hydrogenated 
oils is excellent and usually has a 
better taste also. Sweetness can come 
from various healthy alternatives. Just 
avoid the artificial sweeteners. Taste- 
testing the various Stevia derivatives 



is recommended in order to discover 
which sweetener you like best. The 
idea is to stay as close to nature-made 
sweetness as possible. Many sweet 
products may use real fruit juices. 
Sometimes sweetness is provided 
through coconut juice, agave nectar, 
and honey. For kids, good taste is 
essential. Let s just keep it a secret that it 
is also healthy. 

Here's an easy one my whole family 
loves. When it's made, don't tell anyone 
the ingredients! 

Mashed Faux-Taters 

1 head cauliflower 

Butter 

Can of full-bodied, organic coconut 



milk 

Sea salt, pepper and other seasonings 

to taste 

DIRECTIONS: 

Steam cauliflower until mushy soft 

Place in food processor and process 
until lump-free 

Mix in a stick of butter (or more if you 
desire a more buttery taste) 

Add sea salt, pepper and seasoning 
(according to what you usually put in 
your mashed potatoes) 

Stir in coconut milk (according to the 
desired consistency of your mashed 
potatoes: start with about 1/4 can if you 
like it moderately thick; add more if 
you like your mashed potatoes thinner. 



Skillet Shepherd's Pie 

courtesy of Susan Beckett 

I created variations of this recipe during 
the week my family and I participated 
in the Food Stamp Challenge - subsist- 
ing on what food we could muster on 
$3 per person/per day. The following 
recipe was a big hit with my teenage 
son and daughter. 

3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced 
about 1/4 inch thickl onion, peeled and 
diced (or 2 green onions for variation) 



1 green pepper, chopped (substitute any 

pepper you prefer) 

3 sausages (or 1/3 pound ground beef 

or soy burger or soy sausages) 

1/3 lb. sliced or grated cheddar cheese 

1 tsp. chili pepper (or other favorite 

spices) and salt and pepper to taste 

6 tablespoons oil 

Heat one tablespoon oil in a large skil- 
let over medium heat add and stir half 
the chili powder and cook the onions 
until slightly soft, about 4 minutes. 
Add green pepper and cook 2 minutes. 



Black Bean Chili 

courtesy of Aaron Van Dyke 

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped 

2 1. minced garlic 

2 1 olive oil 

3 cans (14.5 oz each) black beans, rinsed 

and drained 

1 can (14.5 oz) crushed tomatoes 

1 1/2 t. ground cumin 

1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro 

1 T. chipotle (or regular) chili powder 

1 T. rice vinegar 

salt 

sour cream 

avocado 



Directions 

1. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over medium- 
high heat, cook onion and garlic in olive 
oil, stirring often, until onion is limp and 
starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. 

2. Add beans, tomatoes and their juice, 
cumin, and 1/2 cup water; bring to a boil, 
then reduce heat and simmer, stirring 
occasionally, to blend flavors, about 15 
minutes. 

3. Stir in cilantro, chipotle chili powder, and 
rice vinegar. Add salt to taste. 

4. Top w/ sour cream, cheese, additional 
onions and/or diced avocado. 



10FF 



Take up to $ I off at 

The Kiwanis Thrift Sale 

Saturdays, 9 a.m. to Noon 

Washington at First Street 



Remove from the pan and set aside. 
Cook the meat in the same pan with the 
other half of the chili powder. Remove 
and cut into small pieces. Stir into the 
onions and peppers. 

Add 2 tablespoons oil to the pan, wait 
for it to heat up, then add a layer of 
potatoes. Turn when bottom is golden 
brown, about 3 minutes. Once both 
sides are cooked, remove and do 
another batch, adding and heating oil 
each time. When you have flipped the 
final layer, leave the potatoes in the pan 



and start assembly. 

Reduce heat to medium-low. Put a 
thin layer of the meat mixture over the 
potatoes and top with a thin layer of 
cheese. Add another layer of potatoes, 
meat, cheese and continue until all in- 
gredients are used, ending with a layer 
of cheese. Cover and heat until warmed 
through and cheese is melted, about 5 
minutes if starting with warm ingredi- 
ents. Serves 4. 




Kiwanis 

Thrift gale 



Serving the children of our community 



Reverends Paul & Stacey Simpson Duke 

517 E. Washington St. 

I {between State & Division) 

734-663-9376 



I 



www.fbca2.org 




FIRST BAPTIST 

CHURCH OF ANN ARBOR 



www.a2kiwanisfoundation.org 

Limited to one Kiwanis Buck Per Purchase, No Cash Value, Expires 4/30/12 



ONI?, KIWANIS B'U't 'K 




FEATURES 



11 



Homeless kids' well-being in Michigan ranks low in the U.S. 



continued from page 4 

Indeed, in a recent update to their 2010 
report "Americas Youngest Outcasts," 
the National Center of Family Home- 
lessness (NCFH) states that homeless- 
ness caused by Hurricane Katrina was 
disastrous, but the damage to families 
brought about by the "human hur- 
ricane" of greed and mismanagement 
(from the financial crisis that began in 
2007) has been even worse, There was 
a bounce of recovery after Katrina, as 
families relocated and started new lives. 
But the poverty caused by the economic 
downturn has not yet begun to heal. 
Compounding that catastrophe are 
changes in government funding that 
have damaged our housing safety net. 

The NCFH has written a report card 
for each state, assessing the extent of 
homelessness, child well-being, the 
risk for homelessness and state policy 
and planning efforts. Among the fifty 
states, Michigan has a composite score 
of 22, thus landing somewhere near 
the middle (1 being best, 50 worst). Tor 
Michigan, there is both good news and 
bad news: In the area of state policy and 
planning efforts, we score fourth in the 
nation - good news! But in the area of 
child well-being, Michigan's rank is 39, 
just above most of the southern states. 

Here are some things ^e know about 
homeless children nationwide: Families 
make up roughly one-third of the entire 
homeless population. Approximately 
1.6 million children will experience 
homelessness over the course of a year, 
and on any given day, an estimated 
200,000 children have no place to live." 
Among all homeless women, 60 percent 
have children under age 18, and more 
than half are separated from their 
children. Among homeless fathers, 
only 7 percent live with their children. 
Single-parent families (mostly headed 
by mothers) are among the poorest and 
the most likely to experience homeless- 
ness. Some two parent family units are 
broken up, with some shelters forbid- 



ding access to fathers and even boys 
past age 12. 

Among the nations working families, 
10 million are poor or near poor. "On 
average, families need an income twice 
as high as the Federal Poverty Level to 
meet their most basic needs," according 
to the December 2011 NCFH report 
"The Characteristics and Needs of 
Families Experiencing Homelessness." 
The stock of reasonably-priced housing 
has been on the decrease for decades. 
In fact, federal support for public hous- 
ing fell by 49 percent between 1980 and 
2003. This suggests a profound change 
in our social values. The NCFH reports 
that "5.8 million units are needed to 
fill the gap in affordable housing for 
extremely low-income households." 

Wages have not kept up with the rising 
cost of homes, whether you own or 
rent. Families at or below the official 
poverty line, and even those who are 
somewhat above that standard simply 
cannot afford to pay for the housing 
available to them. Housing problems, 
which have changed the lives of many 
Americans recently, affect the poor 
disproportionately. But people struggle 
and manage to hang on until something 
besides housing gives way: a job is 
gone, illness strikes, self-destructive be- 
-haviors set in, and homelessness results. 

Researchers say that there are many, 
often interacting, factors leading to the 
loss of a home. The list includes lack 
of employment, mental and physical 
health problems, limited education, 
communal and family violence, and the 
lack of access to social support systems. 
We are told that the problems run deep, 
sometimes spanning generations, ac- 
cording to the Family Housing Fund 
of Minneapolis. But saying so does not 
mean that our society's excessive toler- 
ance for poverty is not implicated in 
nearly every factor just cited. 

According to social research, homeless 
kids have witnessed more violence than 



their peers, including partner abuse at 
home. This is a predictor of their own 
violent behavior in the future. These 
children experience more chaos and 
unpredictability than housed children 
do. The adults who care for them are 
often unreliable or emotionally unavail- 
able, due to multiple stressors in their 
own lives. The routines that give life its 
stability are easily eroded. With hun- 
ger and food insecurity a daily reality, 
schoolwork and social life go by the 
board. Because of multiple relocations, 
school attendance is at risk, as is health 
care. As a result, homeless children are 
at great risk of failing to attain physical, 
social and intellectual milestones. 

We know that kids don t have an adult s 
ability to identify their feelings or find 
the words to express them. Very often, 
children convey strong feelings indi- 
rectly, either by attacking others or 
withdrawing into themselves. Behind 
the blows of an aggressive child lies fear 
and a sense of abandonment, and the 
tears of a sad child may be fueled by 
anger and self-repression. 

Here is how SOS executive director - 
Faye Askew- Kings summed up her 
description of homeless children's vul- 
nerabilities: "Their brains look like the 
brains of people with post-traumatic 
stress disorder." The symptoms in- 
clude poor self-regulation, blocking of 
feelings, difficulty concentrating and 
learning, and generally speaking, either 
externalizing (aggression, disobedi- 
ence) or internalizing (anxiety, de- 
pression, guilt) of psychic pain. In the 
words of The National Child Traumatic 
Stress Network (NCTSW), "The experi- 
ence of homelessness results in a loss 
of community, routines, possessions, 
privacy, and security. Children,, moth- 
ers, and families who live in shelters 
need to make significant adjustments 
to shelter living and are confronted 
by other problems" - including ones 
related specifically to the children, such 
as physical illnesses. The NCTSW also 



notes that "the stresses associated with 
homelessness can exacerbate other 
trauma-related difficulties and interfere 
with recovery .due to ongoing traumatic 
reminders and challenges." 

But instead of continuing this catalog 
of misfortune, let us pause and try to 
focus on what else is going on, what 
some call "structural" problems, or, the 
way society works that makes all the 
personal misfortune likelier to occur 
in the first place. We should remember 
that the disruptive and non-nurturing 
factors associated with childhood 
homelessness are present in the lives of 
all very poor children. Its just that the 
level of distress and impairment is often 
higher when homelessness is added. 
We must be thankful that, here in 
Washtenaw County, we have committed 
people with the skills and determina- 
tion to reach out and change the lives 
of these kids and their families, work- 
ing together and stretching all avail- 
able resources. Money - also known as 
resources, economic security, income, 
bread on the table, purchasing power, 
and just plain power - is an unavoid- 
able element in any discussion of home- 
lessness. It is a big part of the problem 
and an equally big part of the solution. 

When I asked Ms. Whitlock and Ms. 
Kennedy of SOS what they would ask • 
for if they could wave a magic wand, 
they both said, "funding, money, afford- 
able housing" (and maybe we should 
add, caring people with a little extra 
time). 

Over twenty agencies and civic groups 
deliver services to the county's home- 
less families, implementing programs 
geared toward each age group served. 
All the county services rely to some 
extent on volunteers. Think about what 
you can offer and consider lending 
a hand. For more information about 
volunteering, contact the volunteer co- 
ordinator at SOS, 734-485-8730. More 
information at: www.soscs.org 



CRYPTOQUOTE 

Solution 

"There can be no keener 
revelation of a society's soul 
than the way in which it treats its 
children." 

— Nelson Mandela 



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STREET BUZZ 



12 



Standing down for area veterans means standing up for their needs 



by David KE Dodge 
Groundcover Contributor 

On Saturday, February 18, 2012 the 
Washtenaw Homeless Veterans Task 
Force put on an event called the 
Washtenaw County Stand Down, at 
the auditorium at the VA Ann Arbor 
Healthcare Service (VAAAHS). 
Numerous agencies, including different 
offices of the VA itself, Michigaij 
Works, the Red Crogs, the League 



of Women Voters, the Washtenaw 
County Veteran Affairs Office, various 
service organizations, and Groundcover 
News, provided attending veterans 
with information and supplies such as 
drinking mugs, blankets and grooming 
aids. 

Outside the building, a unit of the 
U.S. military erected a food tent and 
provided both hot meals and cold 
sandwiches, salads, and pastries to 




VA Stand Down debut: Ann Arbor VA held its first "Stand Down against homeless- 

ness" on Saturday February 16, 2012 and Groundcover News was there along 

with many other groups that help veterans who are in need of housing and other 

resources. The term "Stand Down" comes from a military reference meaning a 

temporary stop of offensive action. 

ABOVE: Heated Army tent containing clothing, blankets and other necessities 

and a wide selection of prepared food fo* the veterans. 

TOP: Volunteers preparing food in the VA tent for veterans in need of meals. 

Photos by David KE Dodge 



the attending public and the service 
providers. Clothing, blankets and other 
necessities were also on-hand for the 
taking. Midshipmen at University of 
Michigan's ROTC program served 
as guides to lead the public from the 
front door of the VAAAHS to the 
auditorium. That much planning and 
work transpired to stage the event was 
evident in how smoothly things went 
for the providers, and in the number of 
attendees. 

The term "Stand Down" refers to the 
period of rest and relaxation given to 
servicemen in wartime, to enable them 
to recover from battle fatigue, so as to 
be able to return to the front for further 
fighting. A quick internet search reveals 
that numerous cities and counties 
across the nation are sites of "Veterans 
Stand Downs," where homeless veterans 



receive assistance from the local 
community resources. 

February 18 was the first occasion 
of the Washtenaw Stand Down; the 
sponsors are hoping to continue it as an 
annual event. 




Volunteer as a writer, 
accountant, baker, business 
consultant, office worker, 
or ad salesperson. 

We have a place for you. 

contact@groundcovernews.com 




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Bl 



BUSINESS - MAKING A DIFFERENCE 



So you want to start a business? Turn to these groups for help 



by Susan Beckett 
Publisher 

With 13 million unemployed workers 
in the U.S. and four people looking 
for work for every available job, job 
creation is at the top of everyone's 
list. Options for financing traditional 
businesses are pretty limited. Banks 
now rarely lend to new restaurants or 
stores and they are not interested in 
making loans of less than $20 thousand. 

People starting a low-tech or service 
business in Washtenaw County will 
most likely need to self- finance or get 
a non- traditional loan. If you live in 
Washtenaw County and have an idea 
for a high-tech business, especially 
in health care, there are a number of 
incubators and accelerators to get your 
business off the ground and ramped up 
for hiring. There are many resources for 
technology-based companies and the 
free seminars presented by area high- 
tech accelerators are open to everyone. 

CEED 

People who can document that they 
have been turned down twice by 
banks but have a viable business plan, 
might be able to get financing through 
the Center for Empowerment and 
Economic Development (CEED). 
They make loans ranging from $500 
to $50,000 to businesses in Washtenaw 
County and have additional money, 
the Eastern Washtenaw MicroLoan 
fund, for businesses that are located 
east of U.S. 23. CEED is more focused 
on growth than development. About 80 
percent of the businesses they support 
got started on their own but utilized a 
CEED loan to reach a sustainable level. 
The organization also counsels owners 
on unconventional funding strategies. 

They recently helped a florist who 
could not afford to order sufficient 
inventory for Valentines Day At the 
suggestion of CEED's staff, the florist 
contacted customers from the previous 
year who had placed large orders, and 
offered them a 5 percent discount for 
pre-paying this year, and used those 
payments to fund a bulk order. 

CEED offers self-paced instruction 
materials on developing a business 
plan and the ins and outs of financing, 
available as free downloads to anyone 
who requests them. They also certify 
women-owned businesses, and offer 
a business conference for women, 
a course for women on how to bid 
on contracts, and matchmaking and 
support services for women. 

POWER, Inc. 

Low- income people might be able to 
start a business utilizing an Individual 
Development Account (IDA) through 
POWER, Inc. Government funds match 
IDA savings on a two-to-one basis for 





Above, from left: Think Tech entrepreneurs Gene Tarn and Vijay Mehra with Eric 

Pless of Blue Bridge in their Spark office 

Below: A group of techies discuss ideas at the Northern Tech Brewery 

the acquisition of 
a specific business 
asset, like a lawn 
mower or truck. 

SPARK -a 

public/private 

partnership 

As part of their 

mission to 

establish the area 

as a desirable place 

for businesses, 

SPARK presents 

monthly on topics 

like marketing, bringing products 

to market and planning. They film 

and stream these presentations live 

along with archiving them on their 

website for viewing at any time. They 

develop offerings such that they can be 

replicated across the state. 

SPARK has their own company 
incubators (low-cost rental space with 
shared copiers and telecommunications 
systems for start-ups) and business 
accelerator programs in three locations. 
SPARK tenants may also benefit from 
accelerator grants that assist in the 
early stages of development, such as 
developing a model that demonstrates 
financial viability. Their Plymouth office 
is designed specifically for companies 
working in the life sciences. It features 
special lab and testing equipment that 
companies use to test the viability of 
pharmaceuticals. 

The rent for physical tenants in Ann 
Arbor or Ypsilanti is $250 per month, 
while virtual tenants, who get the use 
of the address and conference rooms 
and some office equipment but no desk 
or dedicated internet, pay only $95 per 
month. The Ann Arbor office is next to 
Liberty Plaza and often networks with 
U-M students and faculty. They look 
for high growth companies with the 
ability to reach five million dollars in 
revenue within five years of forming a 
company. They support emerging and 
growing companies in the area's driving 
industries, if the company is technology 
focused and innovative. 



One of SPARK s most valuable 
services is connecting businesses with 
the resources they need, including 
potential employees. They network 
with local universities, local businesses, 
volunteers and government agencies. 
An innovative program running 
at SPARK East is a 12-week course 
that teaches the fundamentals of 
computer programming in high- 
demand languages to creative, high- 
aptitude people looking for work. The 
program, Shifting Codes, had 800 
potential participants show up at the 
initial informational meeting. If the 
pilot group of 35 find success with 
local companies, the program will run 
regularly and be replicated in other 
areas around the state. 

Participant Maggie LaNoue said, "I love 
the Shifting Code class even though it 
is very challenging. I have been self- 
employed for 30 years and things have 
gotten harder being in the art business 
with the current economy. Plus, I am 
now a widow and my art has just not 
been enough to make ends meet. I did 
start creating websites back in 1995, 
and last year I started to teach myself 
Drupal - a new kind of website." 

SPARKs mission of attracting and 
retaining high growth companies 
depends greatly on offering a strong 
talent pool. Vijay Mehra of ThinkTech 
Labs, a vertical sales integration 
software company that relocated from 
New York to the SPARK incubator, is 
considering filling his programmer 



needs by offering his own language 
and implementation cycle course for 
U-M Information Technology students 
nearing graduation. 

On the decision to relocate to Ann 
Arbor, Mehra commented, "It was 
difficult for us to have any advantage 
there [New York City]. The tech 
companies were not concentrated. 
Here, you turn a corner and find three 
or four. And the costs are so much 
lower here." 

Another of SPARK s tenants, I-3D, 
whose software detects broken water 
pipes, elected to settle in Ann Arbor 
because the cost of an office and hiring 
two Python programmers here is only 
60 percent of what the cost would have 
been in San Francisco, the home of one 
partner. 

It was on the recommendation of a 
mentor that OR Tech Systems took up 
residence at SPARK. The presence of 
the Southeast Michigan Health Care 
information Exchange and their work 
on electronic medical records made 
Ann Arbor the best strategic location 
for developing their universal platform 
for wireless transmission of health care 
records and payments. (See interview 
on p. B3) 

SPARK East is located in downtown 
Ypsilanti and has the widest scope 
for companies it assists. According to 
manager Kyle DeBord, "One of the 
things that's nice about Ypsilanti is that 
there are a lot of resources for people 
starting small businesses in the area. 
Just down the street in the Key Bank 
building is the Michigan Small Business 
and Technology Development Center, 
the local branch of the Small Business 
Administration. They work with 
businesses at all stages and it's free." 

Together, they offer numerous 
courses that range from how to 
write a business plan to strategies for 
business expansion. They partner 
with SCORE (retired executives who 
serve as mentors), which works out 
of Cleary University and with the 
Eastern Michigan University School 
of Business, Student Economic Club, 
and Collegiate Entrepreneurship 
Organization to foster businesses and 
place students with companies as 
interns. DeBord notes that so many 
of the local businesses are one- or 
two-person operations that interns 
are essential for freeing the owners up 
from tending the cash register so they 
can explore opportunities for growth. 
SPARK is also working with Ypsilanti 
High School to provide students 
with Individual Education Plans the 
opportunity to spend their afternoons 
doing volunteer work with local 
businesses to help them develop soft 

see ENTREPRENEUR, page B2 




H 



■■ 



■i 



BUSINESS - MAKING A DIFFERENCE 



Entrepreneurs have lots of help if they know where to look 



continued from page B1 

business skills. 

Two successful businesses have 
graduated from the Spark East 
incubator. VC Web Services has taken 
up residence on Washington St. in 
Ypsilanti, and Clean Suite Inspections, 
a green cleaning and supply service, 
is now headquartered in Ypsilanti 
Township. 

Start-ups currently in residence include 
one that is working on neuroplasticity 
to aid in recovery from brain trauma, 
and another whose product verbally 
reminds people to wash their hands 
before exiting a restroom, which is said 
to be 80 percent more likely to result in 
compliance than is a written reminder. 

Northern Tech Brewery 

Cultivating a culture of 
entrepreneurship and creating 
local jobs from the bottom up is 
the mission of the Northern Tech 
Brewery. It offers shared, short-term 
office space, as does the Workantile 
Exchange, but it distinguishes itself 
through its collaborative environment. 
Independent entrepreneurs share ideas 
freely and welcome the tech community 
at large each Friday at 4:30 for further 
ping-ponging of ideas and networking. 

Most of the businesses at the Tech 
Brewery are software related, but there 
is one social venture with a physical 
product. Hearing Health Science 
markets a mint called Soundbites, a 
nutraceutical that helps protect cilia in 
the ears to prevent hearing loss. The 
founders were motivated by the many 
returning soldiers with diminished 
hearing. Some are combat-related 
injuries while other soldiers lost 
hearing as a side-effect of some anti- 
malarial and tuberculosis medications. 
Taking Soundbites prior to exposure 
minimizes damage. 

Richard Bollinger comes to some of 
the "beer 30" gatherings at the Tech 
Brewery to socialize and exchange 
ideas with fellow software enthusiasts. 
Bollinger commented, "Entrepreneurs 
have to walk the first two miles in the 
desert on their own; no shoes, no water. 
A rules change [at SPARK] last summer 



allowed loans to commercialize IT 
[information technology], so now I'm 
applying for a micro-loan." According 
to Tech Brewery founder Dug Song, 
SPARK caters to more traditional 
industries, and businesses have to go 
through many rounds of proposals 
and presentations before they can get 
started. 

University graduate students also 
frequent the Friday fests, checking out 
ideas and trolling for jobs. According to 
Song, a cool idea can attract a topnotch 
student programmer willing to work at 
bargain prices. 

Song organized a2geeks, a group which 
sponsors meet-ups in collaboration 
with others around town such as Ann 
Arbor SPARK and the University of 
Michigan's Ross School of Business. 
Twice a month, five local companies 
showcase their concepts and business 
plans and get feedback from the 
audience. 

Ann Arbors growing reputation as 
the "Bay Area of the Mid- West" is 
greatiy enhanced by the presence of 
serial entrepreneurs like Song. Their 
passion to create and lead often extends 
to fostering others and connecting 
new businesses with private funding 
sources. The rapid exchange of ideas 
and resources has a synergistic 
creative effect that erupts into rapid 
development of new ideas and 
technologies. Song benefited greatly 
from that environment in Silicon 
Valley and is doing his best to create an 
innovation cluster here. 

TechArb 

U-M students have an incubator 
of their own - TechArb, a joint 
venture of the U-M Center for 
Entrepreneurship and the Ross School 
of Business Zell Lurie Institute for 
Entrepreneurial Studies. It started 
as a summer experiment three years 
ago and has since launched close to 
100 companies, of which more than 
20 are still in business. Mobiata, 
creator of FlightTrack, has since been 
purchased by Expedia but retains its 
own identity and headquarters in 
Nickels Arcade; OWN, a cloud-based 
point of sale system that runs on a 



tablet and informs stores of 
their clients' preferences and 
buying habits, has an office in 
Detroit; Are You a Human, is 
a puzzle-based alternative to 
reading fuzzy writing, known 
as CAPTCHA, to distinguish 
human computer users from 
robots. 

To be accepted by TechArb, 
a business must be run by 
a team, with an idea that is 
solid, disruptive, impactful 
and scalable. In other words, 
it must be viable and change 
the way the world operates 
while making a positive 
difference in the world for a 
significant number of people. 




Co-owner Karl Osterland by his Ypsilanti storefront. 
Fastemps got bridge funding from CEED so they 
could hire 390 workers for FedEx over the holidays. 
They needed a loan of $33 thousand to meet their first 
payroll. That money was on the streets within the week, 
bolstering the local economy. 

Below, from left: Developers Gillian Henker of DIIME, 
Ricardo Rodriguez of YouTrivia, and Lydia Muwanga of I 
Heart Art in the Tech Arb office. 



Of the current 22 businesses, 

roughly half are spearheaded 

by undergrads and the 

rest by graduate students 

or students who recently 

graduated but started their 

businesses while they were 

still in school. Businesses 

benefit from free office space, 

mentoring by alumni and 

local entrepreneurs, idea 

sharing among themselves, 

access to a network of 

investors, and the possibility 

of a $10,000 grant so they can work on 

their businesses during the summer. 

Current TechArb business developers 
appreciate being connected to business 
experts and mentors who guide them in 
turning their ideas into products. Lydia 
Muwanga, founder of I Heart Art, said, 
"TechArb is like a garden." 

Muwanga is exploring her idea for 
a mobile app that recommends to 
people art that they are likely to find 
meaningful. An early version will get 
a trial run at the Prison Creative Arts 
Project exhibit at the Duderstadt gallery 
on March 20. The app will provide 
in-depth information about the artists 
and their work. Eventually, it will learn 
users tastes based on what they explore 
and make suggestions. 

Design Innovations for Infants and 
Mothers Everywhere co-founder Gillian 
Henker responded to Ghanian doctors' 




need for recycling blood lost during 
operations by designing an autologos 
blood transfusion device. It looks like 
a giant syringe that sucks up the blood 
that has spilled into stomach, filters it, 
and bags it so it can be transfused back 
to the patient it came from. That avoids 
the need for expensive blood typing 
and screening for disease that the raises 
the cost of blood to $50 per pint in 
the developing world and $200 in the 
U.S. The group was able to work on the 
project through the summer thanks 
to a TechArb summer scholarship 
of $10,000 and a collegiate student 
grant. The group is now working with 
local manufacturers to design a cost- 
effective manufacturing process. They 
hope to do a clinical pilot in Ghana 
later this year. This is a great example 
of TechArb s commitment to being 
impact-driven - making an ongoing 
difference in the world and bringing 
forth something needed that would 
otherwise not exist. 




Proudly Serving 



fi 



MAIN STREET T-SHIRTS 



and alt surrounding 
areas far over 30 years! 




220 S. Main St. Ann Arbor, Ml 48104 P. 734.994.9898 



BUSINESS 



B3 



Q and A: Meet the Creators of ORTech Systems, LLC 



by La Shawn Courtwright 
Groundcover Vendor 

OR Tech Systems recently relocated from 
New York City to offices at Ann Arbor 
Spark. Groundcover reporter-vendor 
La Shawn Courtwright struck up a 
conversation with OR co-founder Frank- 
James (Jim) Brown. He was so interesting 
that she set up the following formal 
interview about the company Jim, and 
his co-founder, Po Lui. 

La Shawn Courtwright: Where are you 

from? 

Jim Brown: I was born in Accra, Ghana 
and Po Lui was born in Hong Kong, 
China. 

LSC: What is OR Tech Systems LLC? 

JB: OR Tech Systems is a start- 
up company based in Ann Arbor, 
Michigan. Our goal is to: 

• Give physicians, nurses and 

authorized medical personnel the 
freedom to share patient medical 
information outside of their current 
medical networks. 



• Allow patients to view their own 
medical information on any 
internet-capable device. 

• Provide an interoperable platform 
for online merchants and buyers to 
perform transactions irrespective 
of the current closed loop payment 
infrastructure deployed by their 
financial institutions. 

LSC: What might that look like? 

JB: For example, a soldier might have 
data at a government VA hospital and 
with their private physician in the 
civilian space. That results naturally in a 
distributed environment and providing 
access for authorization requires a 
higher level of identity and/or the use 
of digital credentials than previously 
necessary to automate the process. 
User ID and Password is not going to 
go away but needs to be buttressed by 
higher strength levels of credentials to 
mitigate the risk of a data breach, which 
in healthcare, can be expensive. 

LSC: How did you start OR Tech 
Systems? 



JB: OR Tech Systems started as a 
discussion of notes Po and I had 
about wireless financial payments. 
We recognize that wireless payment 
and the online payment arena is 
still young. While there are large 
institutional payment providers, we 
believe in coming years new payment 
solutions will be deployed. As such, 
financial institutions have to be 
able to provide their clients access 
to payments regardless of wireless 
device, online payment solution or 
security infrastructure. That prompted 
us to develop our initial agnostic 
[environment-neutral] payment 
solution. While financial institutions 
understood the problem, "the question" 
was always, "Who are our clients?" 
The answer is healthcare institutions. 
We knew that healthcare represented 
one-quarter of the U.S. gross domestic 
product. Healthcare also is a central 
"cradle to grave" industry that touches 
everyone's life and plays a part in every 
industry. 

Since we first sat down and discussed 
this problem and our business venture, 
Po and I have funded every effort. Both 



of us have spent every day committed 
to making the dream a reality. 

LSC: When did you think of starting 
this business and when was it launched? 

JB: OR Tech Systems was a concept that 
was conceived in 2004. Since that time, 
Po and I have forged ahead trying to 
understand the needs of the industry 
and working to develop a means 
of software development. OR Tech 
Systems was first launched in New York 
State under the corporate title of OR 
Technology, LLC in 2006. 

LSC: In what ways do you two 
feel privileged to live and work as 
entrepreneurs in America? 

JB: America is and continues to be 
the land of opportunity if a person is 
committed to put in the work and ask 
for help. As fellow students of history, 
we realize that we are just following in 
the footsteps of others who came here 
to build a better life. As entrepreneurs, 
we also realize the satisfaction in being 
creators. Even still, Po and I have been 

see NEW TECH SYSTEMS, page B4 




Mobile Health Software Development 

Openings in Ann Arbor with 

the support of SPARK 

Email resumes to: 

f.james.brown@ortechsys.com 

requestinfo@ortechsys.com 



Mobile Systems Engineer/Architect 

-Strong experience with OOP, ODD, UML, Visio. 

-Strong development background with .NET, C#, ASPNET, XML, SQL. 

Senior Software Engineer 

-Designing and implementing mobile applications and production experience with provisioning/deployment of mobile 
applications using one or more of the following: BREW, J2ME, .NET CF, WAP, SIM Toolkit or Symbian. 
-Application security and digital signature technologies experience. 

Software Development Engineers 

-2+ years of hands on experience in a high tech industry in a support function for client level networking products. 

-1 -2 years in Issue/Task Management 

-2-3 years in a cross-team collaboration situations 

-2 years familiarity with OLAP/SQL reporting technologies 





OR Tech Systems, LLC 

330 East Liberty, Lower Level 

Ann Arbor, Ml 48104 



www. grouhdcovernews . c 



B4 



BUSINESS 



New tech system business finds a home in Ann Arbor 



continued from page B3 

fortunate in being able to have help 
from organizations such as Ann Arbor 
Spark. 

LSC: In what way or ways do you want 
to redefine America? 

JB: We dont want to define or change 
anything in America. The America that 
we love is the country where multiple 
ideas and beliefs can be expressed 
without fear of criticism and anger. 

The only thing we want to cultivate 
is the same enjoyment of creating 
business for the next generation of 
minority students in Michigan and/ 
or New York. Our message to them is, 
"You can do anything and be anything 
if you just believe in yourself." I know 
its a cliche, but it's true. 

LSC: Why Michigan? 

JB: Our mentor Mick Talley Lead, 
Independent Director and Chairman of 
the Audit Committee of the University 
Bancorp of Ann Arbor and a Director 
of the Southeast Michigan Health 
Information Exchange (SEMHIE), 
suggested we work in Ann Arbor. Ann 
Arbor is "ground zero" for healthcare 
information technology. 

But most importantly, Michigan 
is our adopted home, we want the 
opportunity to help build and continue 
to bring innovation to the state. OR 
Tech Systems is just one of many 
businesses looking to make positive 
changes a reality. 

Southeast Michigan has been very 
active in healthcare information 
technology and very proactive in 
looking for solutions which are 
collaboratively based. Michigan 
understands the need for a solution 
which is a result of private/public 
collaboration and serves the needs 
of a regional group with "its feet on 
the ground." This area is active in 
development of innovative technologies 
to solve generic problems and perhaps 
will result in economic development 



"Switching Codes" class 

session at Spark East 

in Ypsilanti prepares 

participants for high demand 

computer programming jobs 



and growth. We want to be a part 
of that. 

The problem of "identity" in 
providing appropriate access 
is a regional, national and 
international activity and many 
other countries are grappling with 
securely sharing data. What most 
governments have missed in their 
solutions is that patients move 
around, and a solution which 
works in one country might not 
work for a patient who needs 
medical attention in another 
country. The same is true of 
states. Michigan is unique in that 
its citizens and I like to travel to 
Canada and Ohio and sometimes 
seek medical care in those places. 
What works in Michigan, has 
to work in other regions. This 
is the business case for the use 
of standards and to provide for 
interoperability. God forbid, I go back 
to Ghana and get sick or Po goes back 
to Hong Kong and needs treatment. 
Our healthcare data has to be available 
wherever we happen to be or get sick 
or injured. The payments, as people 
want to get paid, have to flow with us as 
we live our lives and travel around the 
country and the world. 

LSC: Since Groundcover is a newspaper 
that generally deals with struggles in 
life, it would be worthwhile to know 
the kinds of struggles and obstacles that 
you and Po faced. 

JB: The main obstacle always had been 
our commitment and I'll mention some 
points. 

a) Commitment in forming a trusting 
business partnership with someone 
who wasn't a childhood friend, a 
college classmate, and/or a prior work 
colleague. 

b) Commitment in understanding and 
highlighting each other's strengths and 
honestly admitting that you need help 
where you're weakest. 

c) Commitment in forging ahead with 




OR founders Frank-James (Jim) Brown and Po Lui 



your idea when other, larger software 
companies believe that the work is too 
hard to accomplish, especially by two 
young upstarts. 

d) Commitment to understanding that 
while this entrepreneurial journey is 
the road less traveled, we can do it and 
we can do it better than anyone else in 
our industry. 

e) Commitment to knowing, regardless 
of our successor 

failure, that we 
have a lot more 
work and a lot 
more companies to 
create. 



LSC: When you 
say, "people like us 
(Jim and Po), what 
does this mean to 
you? 

JB: Entrepreneurs 
like myself and Po 
are "Creators". We 
look at the world 
and see puzzles, 
experiments, and 
ideas just waiting 
to be solved or be 



solved better. We like listening to (not 
judging) all viewpoints and ideas and 
incorporating them into our own core 
beliefs. 

LSC: This is a great startup, I believe, 
and I hope that you two get your 
projects where you want them to be. 
Thank you Mr. Brown, and Mr. Lui, 
for sharing your story with me and the 
readers of Groundcover News. 





Bethlehem United Church of Christ 

423 S. Fourth Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 

(between William and Packard) 

www.bethlehem-ucc.org (734) 665-6149 

Bethlehem Church is home for the Groundcover Office 

Sundays: 

8:30 am and 10:00 am ~ Worship 

10:00 am ~ Church School 

Upcoming Events: 

Every Monday during Lent 

Lenten Study ~ 11:00 am and 5:00 pm 

March 11 ~ New Member Class ~ 11:30 am 

For those interested in joining Bethlehem Church 

March 18 - Chili Cook-off - 11:30 am 

Dinner and games to follow 

March 26 ~ Monthly Fundraiser ^Holiday's Restaurant 

All day - need to present flyer ~ available at church 

March 30 ~ Parking Lot Pretzels 

Sales ~ noon to 4:00 pm 

an invitation to grow in spirit and serve with joy